So far this year, both Sony have denied that they’re releasing the PlayStation 4 and Microsoft the same with the “XBox 720″/”Codename Ten”/Durango. And while this could be a subversive tactic to leave the consoles as a surprise, I suspect both companies want to see what happens with uptake on Nintendo’s Wii U, which looks set be released some point in the latter half of the year.
Of course they could just be waiting for the likes of an event such as E3 to announce that they’ll be out next year and to give an unveiling of a prototype. But still, neither of those two consoles will be out this year.
What is already out in Japan and about to be released next week in the EU is the PS Vita, the successor to Sony’s PSP. Sales of the device in Japan since its launch in December last year have been less then stellar with evidence to suggest that Nintendo’s 3DS and Sony’s previous handheld – the PSP – have been outselling it.
And the thing is, we’re still dealing with a global recession in a lot of countries, devaluing consumer spending power and confidence to splash out. Sure figures were released in the UK today, which suggested that consumer spending had picked up last month, but this was during a period where a lot of retailers were running sales and offering multitudes of discounts.
UK jobless figures were also up this week, Greece and all that lot are still in trouble – there’s a lot going on in Western countries would seem to suggest that selling in the global market is not as clear cut as it could be.
There’s also device fragmentation happening at rates never before seen as consumers that have spending power buy smartphones and tablet devices, with Q4 results showing a huge increase in growth there. But if people are spending lots of money on these devices – who’s going to have the cash for new consoles?
Core gamers, the ones that have mainly bought or used consoles in the past are being squeezed just as much as everyone else. And I think Nintendo is going to have a hard time explaining to and winning over the casual fans they won other with the original Wii that they should go and pick up the Wii U on it’s release.
Seriously, I feel that both this year and next year are bad ideas for console releases. To me it seems that companies like Sony and Microsoft would be better off keeping things under wraps for now and ensuring that they have a strong line of game titles to sell when (or if) their new consoles launch. But they should also use this time to keep an eye on how the global economy and consumer confidence is faring while still offering new titles for their existing systems – which they’ll be doing anyway.
Essentially: I think the next eighteen months or so is a bad time to be putting out systems that people can’t afford or will believe they don’t need.